Day 7: Nicaraguan Journal

This morn­ing we “bor­rowed” the kitchen of the comi­dor where we have been eat­ing and four of our bravest brigadis­tas cooked break­fast for us using a tra­di­tional Nicaraguan wood stove: a long, nar­row fire­box that is fed with long branches at the end of which are a cou­ple of holes to put pots onto the direct flame. I wasn’t part of this adven­ture but I heard that all would have been lost with­out the help of Maritza, our native Nicaraguan brigadista.

street, san juan de limayThe final prod­uct was deli­cious but it took a lit­tle longer (okay, a lot longer) to pre­pare than we had antic­i­pated, which gave the rest of us time to walk the streets of San Juan de Limay and watch peo­ple start­ing their day: col­lect­ing tor­tillas for their break­fast, sweep­ing their doorsteps and the street in front of their houses, sit­ting out­side their front doors look­ing at us as we looked at them, and, in the case of the dogs, sleep­ing in the mid­dle of the road.

On our way to La Naranja pot­tery, we passed another gordita, this one hold­ing a djembe, an African drum that was intro­duced to Nicaragua by a pot­ter from Africa and has since become known to grin­gos who are not as well-informed as we are, as a “tra­di­tional Nicaraguan drum.” La Naranja is a family-run pot­tery that you get to by takinga  short drive from San Juan de Limay and a longer walk down a steep and rocky road. We pulled sev­eral mys­te­ri­ous and heavy metal pieces from the back of the van and lugged them down the hill and they turned out to be the parts for an extruder, which we put together and mounted beside the stu­dio door on one of the few solid beams in the place.

We hung out at La Naranja for the rest of the morn­ing play­ing with the extruder (Maritza gave a demo of an extruded boat that she had learned how to make at a Potters for Peace work­shop last year), shar­ing pot­tery tech­niques and buy­ing pot­tery pieces that we would later stuff into the space left by the extruder parts and then we said good­bye and walked back up the long, hot hill.

In the after­noon we vis­ited the pot­tery at El Calero, a pueblo that was cre­ated to house peo­ple who sur­vived when Hurrican Mitch wiped out their pre­vi­ous pueblo, Rio Abajo. El Calero is close to San Juan de Limay but the road we had to take is rough and rocky and runs through a river bed that, at this time of year, is usu­ally dry. The pot­ters at El Calero (all of whom are women) have many chal­lenges: so far they have not been able to form a strong, cohe­sive group; they are not pro­fi­cient throw­ers and they have no one to teach them; they have lit­tle con­tact with larger cen­tres and so have dif­fi­culty com­ing up with design ideas; and they have dif­fi­culty get­ting their wares to mar­ket and buy­ers sel­dom brave the rough road to get to them. The one advan­tage they have over other pot­ter­ies is ready access to four dif­fer­ent colours of clay — light orange, red, black and light pur­ple — which they use for dec­o­rat­ing and in mak­ing jew­ellery. However, their fin­ish­ing is still lit­tle rough and we all agreed that the women of El Calero could use some help to make their busi­ness more successful.

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